NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Graduation season is upon us and it's time to celebrate a job well done.
"(I'm) really excited," Vanderbilt Peabody College graduate Tiffany Morris-Simon said. "Today's a very good day. It's been a long time coming."
When the pomp and circumstance is over graduates will soon realize that stellar education comes at a price.
"I was lucky enough that I had …scholarship(s) but I'm sure I'll get some student loan e-mails here in not too long," Morris-Simon added.
Nationwide student loan debt tops $1 trillion.
"Everyone thinks I'll get the great job. I'll pay off my loans and it's not going to always happen because the economy is real bad," Vanderbilt Law School graduate Sean Deitrick said. "There was a day you could assume you could go to a school like Vanderbilt, you could walk out and get a six figure job."
Those expectations are no longer realistic for anyone.
"For a student who has just now graduated first congratulations," Richard Rhoda, Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission said. "But they need to be very sure that they understand what their obligations are."
According to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, 46 percent of students graduate with debt. On average it adds up to nearly $20,000 for students in both public and private institutions.
"At a six percent rate, which it's not there now but it may pretty soon, payments are $220 a month…for 10 years," Rhoda explained.
Comparatively, students in Tennessee are doing far better than students in other states. Rhoda says primarily because tuition is lower.
"It's more not of a six months thing, but a ten years thing, a 25 years thing. What am I looking at? That's where the anxiety is for me," Deitrick explained. "I guess like someone going into school, I'm optimistic."
It's the price tag many pay for more opportunities, with hopes of having a brighter future.
Many lenders will work with graduates to come up with a re-payment plan. Some even allow payments to be based on your income. Missing a payment could be the worst thing borrowers could do because it impacts credit scores and can make getting a home mortgage, apartment or even a job more difficult.
Federal student loan interest rates could double on July 1st if Congress doesn't act. According to the White House, allowing the rate to increase to 6.8 percent would cost the average student an extra $1,000.